Thursday, June 03, 2004
Bill Cochran's Field Reports: Put the spotlight on Roanoke bass
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
Franklin County is home of Smith Mountain and Philpott lakes, two of Virginia’s largest and most popular impoundments. “What a lot of people don’t know, though, is that we are also home to the Blackwater and Pigg rivers,” said Scott Martin.
The goal of Martin is to introduce anglers and paddlers to these two often-overlooked, warm-water streams that meander through Franklin County. He is the director of the country’s department of commerce and leisure services.
For years, Franklin County has put the spotlight on the Pigg River with a race called the Pigg River Ramble. New this year, on June 6, the day after the Ramble, there will be a float called Breakfast on the Blackwater River. Information on the events can be found on historicrockymount.com.
Martin recently has been highlighting the paddling opportunities and scenic beauty of two streams through media attention in The Roanoke Times and Roanoke Channel 10 television. “One of my goals is to expand water access on these rivers and in order to do this we are crafting events to focus energy and attention on these river,” he said.
There is another thing that makes the Pigg and Blackwater special. The streams contain some of the best populations in Virginia of the Roanoke bass, a species that has a small and declining range. The Roanoke bass frequently is misidentified as a rock bass or redeye. Dr. Robert Jenkins, of the Roanoke College Department of Biology, an expert on the species, says the “Roanoke bass is not a strain of rock bass, they are a distinct species.”
Martin is kicking around the idea that a catch-and-release-fishing tournament on the species would draw attention to the Pigg and Blackwater rivers. But would it put too much pressure on a limited fishery, he wonders.
“Before going too far down this path I am looking for comments from people active in the fishing community,” he said.
Jenkins told Martin that he has mixed feelings about the proposal, and didn’t like the word “tournament.” Too much attention could harm the population but catch-and-release might bring positive attention to the species and river and create more advocates of its preservation.
“Heck, go for it,” Jenkins said.
“I think we may be onto something,” said Martin, who plans to continue kicking the idea round
The Franklin County event, Jenkins said, could be used to remove some of the nonnative rock bass that are reputed to be competing with the Roanoke bass.
Stay tuned. Martin is searching for a better word than tournament to describe what he has in mind.
If the northern snakehead were a sport-fish, then weekly fishing reports would be full of good news about catching them on the Potomac River.
Still another one of these undesirable creatures has been caught from an eight-mile stretch of the Potomac that has produced a total of five since last month. This one was captured in a seine by a commercial waterman near Pohick Bay Regional Park and Fort Belvoir Military Installation. Others have been landed on hook and line, some during bass tournaments. The most recent fish was an immature female that measured 14.5 inches and weight 16.1 ounces.
The northern snakehead fish is an invasive species that can become a top-tier predator once it enters an ecosystem, say officials of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. It is a bit like a virus getting into your computer. Native species, including bass, could suffer if the snakehead takes up a reproducing residency in the river.
With that in mind, Virginia and Maryland fish officials are asking anglers to report their catches. Toll-free phone lines have been established. A few anglers have been calling in reports of catching look-alike species, including bowfins, eels and lampreys. One angler reported that he had been bitten by a snakehead while fishing in saltwater. Officials say that’s not likely, since the species will not tolerate saltwater.
There are facts on and photographs of the snakehead on a VDGIF Web site: dgif.virginia.gov.
If you catch a snakehead or think you have, officials say the fish should be killed with a humane blow to the head then put on ice as quickly as possible. Word of the catch should be reported immediately. In Virginia, the toll-free number is 800-770-4951 (use 804-367-1258 if your are calling from out-of-state). The Maryland number is 877-520-8367.
NO VIRGINIAN IN BASS CLASSIC
It appears that the July 30-Aug. 1 Bassmaters Classic will be void of entries from Virginia, even though the event will be held on nearby North Carolina’s Wylie Lake with weigh-in at the Charlotte Coliseum. Contestants will be casting for a boatload of prestige and the $200,000 winner’s take.
Most of the field has qualified, with the exception of 10 entries from the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, which will conclude June 19 at Kentucky’s Cumberland, Ohio and Tennessee rivers. Here is the field thus far:
From the CITGO Bassmaster Tour:
Gerald Swindle from Hayden, Ala.
Greg Hackney, Gonzales, La.
Michael Iaconelli, Runnemede, N.J.
Kelly Jordon, Mineola, Texas
Aaron Martens, Castaic, Calif.
Scott Suggs, Alexander, Ark.
Bernie Schultz, Gainesville, Fla.
Takahiro Omori, Emory, Texas
Brent Chapman, Shawnee, Kansas
Chad Brauer, Camdenton, Mo.
Davy Hite, Prosperity, S.C.
Chris Baumgardner, Gastonia, N.C.
Marty Stone Linden, N.C.
Mark Davis, Mount Ida, Ark.
Brett Hite, Phoeniz, Ariz.
Alton Jones, Waco, Texas
Gary Klein, Weatherford, Texas
Jim Bitter, Fruitland Park, Fla.
Dean Rojas, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Lee Bailey, Amston, Conn.
Peter Thliveros, Jacksonville, Fla.
Harold Allen , Shelbyville, Texas
Kevin VanDam, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Mark Kile, Payson, Ariz.
Stacey King, Reeds Springs, Mo.
From the CITGO Bassmaster Open Series Northern Division:
Art Ferguson III, St. Clair Shores, Mich.
Kevin Wirth, Crestwood, Ky.
Chuck Economu, Palm Bay, Fla.
From the Southern Division:
Tim Horton, Muscle Shoals, Ala.
David Walker, Cannon, Ky.
Denny Brauer, Camden, Mo.
From the Central Division:
Edwin Evers, Mannsville, Okla.
Tim Carroll, Owasso, Okla.
Steve Sennikoff, Forney, Texas
From the Western Division:
Bink Desaro, Boise, Idaho
John Murray, Phoenix, Ariz.
Skeet Reese, Auburn, Calif.
From the CITGO BASS Federation Championship:
Thad Takes, Center Point, Iowa
Russ Lane, Prattville, Ala.
George Acord, Lancaster, Pa.
William Pippen, Crossett, Ark.
Jeff Boyer, Auburn, Wash.
SMITH RIVER TROUT REPORT
I fished the lower Smith River and did very well on my favorite nymph, a beadhead Allieworm. The river was stocked with rainbow; however, two-thirds of my 20-plus fish were stream-spawned brown trout.
The next day was entirely different. A North Carolina friend and I got a late start behind the Mirror Factor and I am ashamed to report that we did not do well. A cooling trend appeared to knock the fish off their feed. There was a hatch of something real small. The fish were not exactly boiling the water, but there was enough surface activity to make us switch to the smallest fly in our box. We got a couple of looks but no hookups. A switch back to a smaller version of Allieworm and Ray Charles produced a total of three fish.
To add insult to injury, after we finished for the morning I talked with a fellow I’ve fished with who fished just a bit upstream. He said he had caught 21 on a very small Light Cahill.
Hmmmmm. Back to the fly-tying bench.
SALTWATER FISHING HIGHLIGHTS
The southern end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that leads to it are offering outstanding saltwater fishing for a variety of species. Big spadefish can be found on structures that include the Chesapeake Light Tower, the bridge tunnel and the Cell.
Jack Cranford, of the Virginia Tech biology department, went after spadefish with some friends at the Chesapeake Light Tower and caught three limits in three hours including three citations.
The early season -- right now -- is the best time to get the biggest of the big spadefish. This also is prime time to catch big black and red drum. The black drum spawn is on its down side, but many of the big fish remain scattered in the lower Chesapeake Bay and along the bridge-tunnel. Often they are being hooked by anglers casting for striped bass or gray trout.
Eight-year-old Eric Meyers did just that. While casting a Storm lure on 10-pound line, he hooked several school-size stripers then felt a really big fish, which turned out to be a 74-pound, 4-ounce black drum. Christian Ealy boated an 80-pound, 13-ounce black drum one day and a 7-pound flounder the next at Machipongo Inlet. Many of the drum are being taken at Buoys 13 and 16 on sea clam. Some 300 black drum release citations have been registered in the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.
Red drum, (channel bass) have offered brisk action at Fisherman’s Island and along the remote barrier islands surf. Cranford and his crew trolled cut menhaden and 4-inch spoons to catch drum off Fisherman’s Island that measured 37, 42, 46 and 50 inches. Lost at the boat was one that appeared to measure 60+ inches, Cranford said.
Flounder have been a bit of a disappointment, with anglers having to go through a bunch of small ones for every keeper. One crew reported hooking 40 to end up with three keepers. Catches of big flounder, however, appear to have increased during recent days.
Striped bass are being taken in chumlines in the mid-Bay, while in the lower Bay anglers are catching them while casting bait or Windcheater lures to the rock islands and tubes of the bridge-tunnel. After dark, larger stripers have been moving in along the high-rise of the bridge-tunnel to feed on trout. Anglers have been sight casting to these stripers.
The inshore lumps have been loaded with big bluefish. Anglers trolling are catching all they want in short order.
Trout are being caught along the bridge-tunnel, but most are small. “For every 20 caught you get a keeper,” said Cranford.
>>Word that submerged aquatic vegetation declined 30 percent last year in the Chesapeake Bay is troublesome since grassbeds breathe oxygen into the water that is needed by crabs and fish. Near record rainfall and an excess of nitrogen are given as reasons for the decline.
>>The Pennsylvania House Committee on Game and Fisheries is dealing with four bills that would increase Sunday Hunting opportunities in that state.
>>The Ruffed Grouse Society offers youngsters three days and three nights of wildlife management instruction, target shooting and fun during a July 29-Aug. 1 Grouse Camp at Huntingdon, Pa. The registration fee is $100. Information is available from Mark Banker, firstname.lastname@example.org.
>>Ducks Unlimited biologists say water is needed badly to improve waterfowl habitat in western Canada and the north-central United States. It will take some major precipitation to recharge wetlands and attract late-nesting species, biologists said.
>>ESPN and ESPM2 will air 11 hours of TV coverage on the Bassmaster Classic July 30-Aug. 1 at Lake Wylie/Charlotte, N.C.
>>Greenpeace, the conservation group best known for its work with whales, is planning to open its first mobile "forest rescue station" in Oregon. The station will be an education and campaign center for the group, which has called for an end to logging on federal land.
VIRGINIA SALTWATER FISHING TOURNAMENT
There are new leaders in the black drum and flounder categories of the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. Here are the standings:
BLACK DRUM: 95 pounds, Joseph Roub, Baltimore, Md., Hog Island Bay.
CROAKER: 4 pounds, 7 ounces, Frankie Martin, Hudgins, upper-western Chesapeake Bay.
FLOUNDER: 10 pounds, 4 ounces, Douglas Loveland, Norfolk, lower-western Chesapeake Bay.
GRAY TROUT: 12 pounds, 12 ounces, Greg Thayer, Gloucester, upper-eastern Chesapeake Bay.
KINGFISH: 1 pound, 14 ounce, Bobby Smith, Portsmouth, lower-western Chesapeake Bay.
SEA BASS: 6 pounds, 14 ounces, Mark Fueller, Rio Grande, N.J., off Virginia Beach.
SPADEFISH: 12 pounds, 4 ounces, Jeff Moore, Virginia Beach, off Virginia Beach.
SPECKLED TROUT: 12 pounds, 14 ounces, Ivan Hutton, Virginia Beach, Elizabeth River.
SPOT: 1 pound, 2 ounces, Charles Wade, Highland Springs, lower Rappahannock River.
STRIPED BASS: 63 pound state record, Carolyn Brown, Virginia Beach, off the Virginia Coast.
TAUTOG: 22 pounds, 9 ounces, Julie Ball, Virginia Beach, off Virginia Beach.
Smith Mountain Striper Club meeting, June 4, 7 p.m., Moneta Community Center.
Meeting of the Smith River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, 7 p.m., June 7, bring side dish for picnic at the Corps of Engineers picnic table near Philpott Dam. Information form Ted Tomczak 276-629-2962 or Russ Williams 434-822-2168.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation American Outdoor Experience, June 11-13, Bristol Motor Speedway.
Virginia Trappers Association’s Convention and Sportsman’s Show, July 23-25, Luray, $5 admission, primitive camping available, information from Bryan Nelson, email@example.com.
Bassmaster Classic, July 30-Aug. 1, Lake Wylie/Charlotte, N.C.
Mother-Daughter Outdoors Event, Aug. 20-22, Appomattox, opportunity for women 9 and up to learn outdoor skills. More info...
Virginia Outdoors Weekend, Sept. 17-19, for families, Westmoreland State Park, details on the Web.
Smith Mountain Striper Club fall tournament, Oct. 9., information from Rex Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got an event? Let us know: email@example.com